The Lebanese army launched on Saturday an offensive against an ISIS enclave on the northeastern border with Syria, as Hezbollah and Syrian forces announced an assault from the Syrian side of the border in the western Qalamoun mountain range.
The Lebanese army was targeting ISIS positions on the outskirts of the town of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek with rockets, artillery and helicopters, a Lebanese source said. The area is the last part of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier under insurgent control.
“We started advancing at 5 a.m.,” the source added about the operation, which is called “Juroud Dawn”.
“Juroud” refers to the barren mountainous border area between Lebanon and Syria.
“In the name of Lebanon, in the name of kidnapped Lebanese soldiers, in the name of martyrs of the army, I announce that operation ‘Juroud Dawn’ has started,” Army chief General Joseph Aoun said earlier Saturday.
The operation by the Syrian forces and Hezbollah was targeting ISIS militants in the western Qalamoun region of Syria, an area across the frontier from Ras Baalbek.
Last month, Hezbollah forced Nusra Front militants and Syrian rebels to leave nearby border strongholds in a joint operation with Syrian forces.
The Lebanese army did not take part in the July operation, but it has been gearing up to assault the ISIS pocket in the same mountainous region. A military source said around 500 ISIS militants were holed up in the enclave.
The army said it was not coordinating with Hezbollah or the Syrian forces in the operation.
In a televised news conference, an army spokesman said the operation would continue until the army recovered control of Lebanese territory up to the border with Syria.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who was following the army operation, called the commander on the ground to congratulate the offensive and told him “we await the victory.”